Thu Apr 11, 2024
April 11, 2024

Britain | The working class is rising again

Unite as one co-ordinated struggle

Unions demand that TUC organise a general strike

Impose price controls

For a sliding scale of wages, benefits and pensions

Anger and determination are rising in the fightback against the harsh attacks by employers and the government. The September strikes, national and local, include the rail unions RMT, Aslef, and TSSA, the CWU postal workers and the colleges UCU union. One of many local strikes includes the Liverpool Dockers from 19th September until 3rd October, sections of the state workers union PCS will also strike while the eight-day port of Felixstowe strike brought the busiest British port to a standstill.

The strike wave, the first mass workers’ response for 30 years, includes wage demands to match inflation and rejection of worsening working conditions and pensions. In the privatised sectors, while huge shareholder dividends and massive bonuses to the senior bosses, wage offers are 7% or less.

The class storm is strengthening

There is a deepening storm because of catastrophic energy price increases following ten years of austerity cuts, and two years of COVID wage freezes. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that households will suffer the biggest fall in their living standards since the 1950s this year, and wages have been falling for many workers for more than 30 years. Councils are preparing “Warm Banks” which are heated places for families who cannot afford to keep their houses warm, “Food Banks”, run from food donations by the public that emerged because the government cuts benefits to the bone, are running out of food. The Bank of England warns of recession and rising unemployment. Britain is at the bottom of the G20 economies with only Russia performing worse. This is British capitalism in decline that wants to lower wages in a low-wage economy.

Like millions of people across Britain, Josina, a teacher from Sheffield, is being pushed into poverty by rising energy prices. This October, when bills are set to rise again, she will have to cut back on food and other essentials if she has any hope of keeping up with the payments.[i]

All the media is talking about millions of workers’ households facing a winter catastrophe as they are plunged into destitution and that lives will be lost because of the cost of heating houses and food. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has highlighted that price rises will wipe out the incomes of poorer families.

Meanwhile, the profits of oil and gas companies reach many billions of pounds. The Tory government’s answer to this is to keep silent and refuse to appear on TV and radio. Capitalism is in trouble, and it is time for us to rise in a one-strike movement.

Come together as a class, call a general strike

Eddie Dempsey, RMT assistant general secretary of the RMT union said at a Liverpool rally, “on the 15 and 17 September, we are going to show the media and the government and the corporations that we have the power because the RMT is going to stop this country unless we get a deal.” And he continued to great applause from 1300 people, “we have got to come together as a class and take collective action together on the picket lines and other forms of action.” Addressing the government and the ruling class, he said, “If you want to take on the posties, we will fight with them; if you want to take on the nurses and care workers, we will fight with them.” 

The International Socialist League agrees we need collective action, that is, nationally coordinated strike action, linked to all the regional and city strike actions to meet the onslaught on the working class. The RMT and all militant leaders have to keep fighting for this necessity; organise from below, and demand the TUC organise a general strike.

A general strike means all unions and working-class neighbourhoods and the oppressed can fight as one, with one voice, demanding: wages, benefits and pensions linked to inflation, fighting all oppression, re-nationalisation of the economy without compensation and where unions and neighbourhoods must aim to control the newly nationalised companies.

We call for a national meeting of unions to plan the best way to strike together. Some rail union leaders say it is better for Aslef train drivers to strike on different days than the RMT workers because it creates more disruption, and it does. But what we are saying is that a plan needs to be made by all unions that want to fight, and we call on the rank and file of those unions who have not yet entered the battle to demand their leaders fight for a strike and joint actions, and to make the TUC fight and organise more than protests outside parliament and various meetings. It has to make the call to all unions – organise as one, organise together, act with one voice as the RMT says and mobilise the 5.5 million workers in the TUC.

Build the community struggle

There is majority support for strikers from the population, and organised support is growing through strike support groups and campaigns such as the “Don’t Pay”[ii] that is do not pay the energy bills from 1 October.

While working class and lower middle-class families are worried about feeding and keeping their children warm; some care homes, many privatised in the 1990s, may close because the energy bills are too high. Small businesses have seen energy bills increase by 1000% as businesses have no energy price cap.

The strikers repudiate the Tory attacks on the NHS (which is being privatised), the lack of decent houses (because council houses were sold off in the 1980s and later) and education that has been commodified.

Strikers are also calling for action against the climate catastrophe, and the need to fight oppression; many LGBTQ+ campaigns have been welcomed, and some Pride events have welcomed striking workers. There is also support for Black and Asian communities and vice-versa. All these interconnections need to be deepened into a movement with one voice against oppression and exploitation.

What do the Tories offer now? They will pay £400 of everyone’s energy bills, except not all payment metres will even get that. The £400 is given to allow companies to continue making super profits.

The Labour Party

The central programme from the Labour Party left is for social justice as if social justice can deal with the profiteering of the multi-nationals. To prevent the further decline of Britain we need the socialism of workers, that is, a workers’ government and workers’ control.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is against the Labour Party supporting pickets. He says he supports the right of unions to strike but this bourgeois politician only thinks in terms of parliamentary manoeuvring, while supporting all the bourgeois institutions of the state. Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour party, “boasted of her hard-line law and order credentials; police should ‘shoot terrorists and ask questions second’ and ‘beat down the door of the criminals and sort them out and antagonise them.’

This is not just a matter of political rhetoric or mood music justifying the creation of new crimes leading to higher levels of incarceration of the poor and dispossessed.[iii]

So, repression is supported by the Labour Party. They mention “terrorists” but these methods are being used against people of colour and the strip searching of young Black students. It will be used against strikers in the future. “If the policing of the public space during lockdown is anything to go by, the state’s resort to surveillance and ‘penal power’ to contain populations, and deal with the fall-out of poverty and discontent by stemming social protest, will become an embedded feature of the strong, interventionist state now promised by politicians.[iv]

Keir Starmer wages war on the Labour left and the workers struggle at the same time. The answer is to build the strike wave and to build an alternative new workers’ party that will support all the actions decided by workers in the struggle.

European and world struggle

Solidarity greetings have been sent from Solidaire (France), Mexico, Palestine postal workers, Ukrainian miners, Engineering workers (CSP-Conlutas), CGT France, Italian transport workers and others. The list is growing. The international workers’ movement can build new militant links with workers worldwide. The strikes in Europe need to link together, which is possible through the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggle (ILNSS),

Palestinian Postal Services Workers Union

“Hello, CWU comrades.

We feel the workers’ strength and unity when we hear your news and your Struggle.  PPSWU, the independent postal union in Palestine, shows its solidarity and stands shoulder to shoulder with you in this strike to achieve the rights of workers in the postal sector.

In solidarity,

PPSWU Board”

Ukraine miners’ union

“Hello, I am Yuri Samoylov, leader of an independent miners’ union from the town of Krivyi Rih. I am expressing my solidarity with the striking workers in Britain: the railway workers, the dockers, the bus drivers and postal workers. I wish you victory in your struggle to win your rights. Only struggle can bring results! Those who don’t fight have already lost. Victories are only for those who fight for them. Once again, victory to all of us!”

Organise a general strike, unite as one, unite our class

The Tories and capitalism are not backing down but preparing new onslaughts; we must build an even stronger movement.

Mick Lynch, the leader of the RMT, has consistently called for joint national actions since 18 June, and Unison and Unite are talking about coordinated strikes in October. But more is needed. All unions must fight the TUC to call a general strike, and in the process, build a plan for a general strike. It is the only way to pose the working class’s power against the ruling class’s power and all its institutions.

Everything must be based on workers’ democracy with agreed decisions by mass meetings, where all are welcome, including all the oppressed and diverse sectors.

We need to build a revolutionary party to achieve these aims, and we call on readers to join the International Socialist League, whose purpose is to make such a party with the International Workers League-Fourth International.

Unions, unite your strikes and demand the TUC organise a general strike!

Build strike support groups to include all workers and oppressed people!

Don’t pay! Unions and neighbourhoods organise demand price control!

Build the ISL and a revolutionary party to carry forward the fight against the Tory class war!



[iii] Racism, radicalisation and Europe’s ‘Thin Blue Line’, Liz Fekete

[iv] ibid

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